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Kids Day games give Bisons early wakeup calls

Playing baseball games in the morning takes a little getting used to. The Buffalo Bisons are getting plenty of practice this month.

The Bisons stage their annual Kids Day game Thursday at 10:35 a.m. against the Columbus Clippers as part of a continuing bizarre series of early starts. It will be their 12th day game of the month – and the fourth time this season they've played a morning game.

"It's always fun when you hear the 'Spongebob' theme song. That's always the best part of any Kids Day," catcher Danny Jansen cracked before a recent game in Coca-Cola Field. "I always get excited for it."

The Herd's previous morning games resulted in wins in Durham and Pawtucket, and a loss in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The game in Buffalo was the forerunner to most teams having a morning game for schools and youth camps to attend. It annually draws one of the biggest crowds of the season and the Bisons have sold nearly 500,000 tickets for the games since they began in 1988. Last year's event, a 5-2 win over Toledo, drew 16,074.

"We've been pretty good in them this year. I've started to call us the 'Mini-Cubs' because we play a lot of day games," said outfielder Roemon Fields. "The little kids yelling makes it better. I like the enthusiasm in the crowd. You just want to make sure we keep them safe."

"For me, it's invigorating," added manager Bobby Meacham. "You might be dragging a little bit from a game the night before and you walk outside and it's like, 'All right, this is cool.' Lot of noise, lot of people there, you get outside and play the game."

It's not a big deal for players to be at the ballpark in the morning in spring training, because hitters are often in the cages at the Blue Jays' complex in Dunedin, Fla., as early as 7:30 a.m. Not so much in the regular season but it quickly brings players back to their routines of February and March.

"It might look like a shock to fans," Fields said. "But it's something we get used to."

Whether in the morning or as sunrise turns to afternoon, the quick starts are definitely making a difference. The Bisons are 12-5 in day games this season but entered Tuesday's homestand opener against Columbus just 11-14 at night.

While night games often see players working out as much as five hours before the first pitch, the morning contests see the players do some quick workouts and take a few swings in the batting cage.

"You wake up, come in and get a little breakfast," Jansen said. "A little foam roll (of the muscles), get in the cages to hit a little and you're ready."

"Guys welcome that break from going out there with the full schedule," Meacham said. "You get a breather a little bit. Just go in the cage, go out and play catch and go right into playing the game."

Each Bisons Kids Day includes an educational theme utilizing the scoreboard and this year's theme is "Balancing Screen Time with Being Active." The Bisons have balanced their time quite a bit this season when it comes to success under the sun.

"You have to hydrate, get a coffee in you and get ready to play," Jansen said. "You're rolling out of bed and a couple hours later you're playing a game so you have to be ready.

"I'm up around 8 o'clock anyway so I like early games," Fields said. "You're most awake, ready to go."

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